The rest is history


The year is 1976: Jimmy Carter defeats Gerald Ford in the presidential election, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak develop the Apple Computer Company—and at the U of C, British-history PhD candidate Mark Horowitz prepares for his oral exam.

"To say I was nervous is an understatement," Horowitz wrote in a Winter 1976 Magazine article, "Fear of Failing." "It was soon determined that on February 6, from 1 to 3 p.m., the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' would join the head of British history for my Exam. I had been taking the Orals in my head nightly since December; by January I was reciting it. [My wife] Barbi couldn't even fix a skirt without a comment from her hebephrenic husband ('Did you know that worsteds like that skirt didn't really get going commercially until the sixteenth century? Why, in the West Riding of Yorkshire...!')"

He passed his orals but never completed his degree—the need to support his family pushed his studies aside, so he began a marketing and consulting career in Chicago. But on April 29, 32 years after taking his exam, Horowitz defended his 276-page dissertation, "Law, Order, and Finance: The Development of Statecraft in the Reign of Henry VII," in front of professors Adrian Johns, Steven Pincus, and John A. Guy. Last Friday, under the pretense of giving a history talk on campus, he surprised his family by inviting them to Hyde Park, where they watched him (finally) receive his PhD at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.


Photo: According to a 2007 study by the Council of Graduate Schools, fewer than 50 percent of history PhD candidates finish within ten years.

Photo courtesy the Chronicle of Higher Education.

June 20, 2008